In No. 14 Indiana men’s basketball’s 48-63 loss to Rutgers on Saturday, a handful of things went wrong.
Senior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis was stagnant on both ends of the floor. Graduate guard Xavier Johnson and junior guard Trey Galloway couldn’t steadily run the offense in the absence of freshman guard Jalen Hood-Schifino. Nobody other than graduate guard Miller Kopp could hit an outside shot.
Thank any or all of head coach Mike Woodson’s game plan, the rowdy home crowd or even the cortisone shots that Jackson-Davis has taken to numb his injuries, but Indiana healed all those impurities in a dominant 81-65 win against Nebraska on Wednesday night. In fact, a few of the biggest things that went wrong in the Hoosiers’ first loss turned out to be the reason for their eighth win of the season after a jump in game-time execution.
Trayce Jackson-Davis' aggressiveness
Against Rutgers, Jackson-Davis looked hesitant, slow and uncomfortable – vastly different from his usual caliber of play. He finished with a 13-point, 10-rebound double-double on Saturday but shot 22% worse than his season average from the field.
Against Nebraska, he returned to his old All-American self.
Jackson-Davis opened the first half with a series of aggressive plays, displaying more speed and strength than he had during any stretch at Rutgers.
He ended the game with 12 points, bumping him two shy of 10th place on the Indiana basketball all-time scoring leaderboard. Jackson-Davis also grabbed 11 rebounds, had 3 blocks and shot 67% from the field
But those stats weren’t even the most impressive part of his performance.
Jackson-Davis played like a guard on both ends of the floor, pushing the ball in transition, distributing to his teammates down low and on the perimeter and – in a manner that has never truly been seen or expected out of the star power forward – played pesky on-ball defense to notch 3 steals.
His incredible, well-rounded performance led to only the third triple-double in Indiana basketball history – a feat which the senior achieved after recording his 10th assist of the night at the 1:22 mark in the second half.
“It just solidifies why I came back,” Jackson-Davis said of his career night. “I came back to do big things, not only individually but with the team, too, and we have high aspirations this year. Moments like that make it special to me, and just kind of is a reminder why I came back.”
Shooting outside of Miller Kopp
Kopp had a strong outing from beyond the arc against the Scarlet Knights, scoring 21 points on 5-9 3-point shooting. The graduate guard exuded confidence in his 13-point performance against the Cornhuskers, too, but the Hoosiers’ ability to find outside shooting elsewhere is a trend in a crucial, positive direction.
Galloway and sophomore guard Tamar Bates each scored double-digit points on over-50% shooting from the 3-point line. As part of a career-high 20 points, Galloway shot 4-6 from deep. Bates wasn’t far behind, recording 19 points on a career-high 5-of-8 3-point makes.
“Overall, they did a great job just getting the ball,” Jackson-Davis said. “Especially Miller, Scoop, Trey, hitting big shots after big shots.”
Galloway, who started in place of an injured Hood-Schifino, was a sparkplug all night, giving the Hoosiers energy and momentum whenever Nebraska attempted to chip away at Indiana’s lead. His signature floater and persistent defense were lethal from the outset, but Woodson knew that the 3-point performance that his usual-sixth man gave was game-changing.
“Tonight, he was reckless,” Woodson said. “Defensively he was great, and he made shots, which was kind of nice to see. Life is pretty damn good when you can make shots.”
Toughness and rebounding go hand-in-hand, so it’s no surprise that, when Indiana lacked both on Saturday, they regained possession thereof against Nebraska. Graduate forward Race Thompson, one of the Hoosiers’ most dependable and physical rebounders, grabbed six on Wednesday, and Bates and Kopp each had four.
Jackson-Davis unsurprisingly had the bulk of the boards with 11 out of 35 total, but the biggest story was how the Hoosiers managed to keep the Cornhuskers off the glass, especially after an abysmal performance in Piscataway, New Jersey.
Woodson said he emphasized the importance of rebounding fundamentals in the practices leading up to the contest against Nebraska.
“We went back to our basics in terms of block-out rebounding drills to try to get their attention in that way, and then to let them know that rebounding is a big part of the basketball game,” Woodson said.
The Hoosiers’ head coach, who has always preached how defense wins championships, was pleased with the effort and the return of his team’s aggression Wednesday night.
“My whole theme has always been, hell, if you play defense tough and you rebound the ball, that's the reward,” Woodson said. “Now you can go down and play offense and have fun. That's the whole beauty about defending and rebounding.”
It wasn’t smooth sailing for the Hoosiers all night though as Johnson struggled all game with two points along with seven turnovers, and Indiana was unable to put Nebraska away until the last couple minutes. But bounce-back wins like these are telling of many things, and the Hoosiers showed an encouraging level of grit and intensity.
There might still be a lot for Indiana to work on, but there is certainly a lot to be happy about.